I was speaking with a friend about the outcome of the recent Presidential
election and I had brought up some questions about the wisdom
of that segment of the electorate that voted Bush back into office.
My friend's response was rather abrupt — "what the
#&*% is wisdom?" My immediate discomfort at the question
led to an equally immediate response — "it's the love
of philosophy, of course." He smiled a knowing smile, which
is to say he knew I was avoiding the question by using reverse
But there is something to my response after all, is there not?
There is the ancient connection between wisdom and philosophy.
Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom. But this is hardly
satisfying, and my friend's question I still believe is an important
one, and no less so for us professors of education. No doubt,
in these so-called postmodern times, it has become increasingly
difficult to give enduring structural integrity to our definitions.
Indeed, the very act of defining something is itself an act of
interpretive force, and this makes any given definition somewhat
shaky and contingent. So, for example, many (perhaps many who
voted for Bush) when asked to define "philosophy" might
respond, "it is religion, of course." And a cursory
look at the philosophy sections in New Age book stores signals
that they might not be far off the mark. Language is a tremendously
pliable force, for better or worse.
It might just be that lots of people, feeling the pinch of trying
to find some meaning in a world (a post-Nietzschean world) where
all our highest values supposedly are busily devaluing themselves,
are struggling with their own interpretive power, their own agency
if you will. The key is that it is a felt problem, not easily
explained away through acquiring some faddish epistemology —
even as many turn in their struggles to new (and old) fundamentalisms.
Whatever it is, I'm confident that wisdom has never meant the
same thing as knowledge. At the same time, though, nor can it
afford to be such a distant relative. How we come to know about
things, and more importantly, what we do with our knowledge signals
that wisdom might play some crucial role in helping determine
how we act on our various hard-earned knowledge. Wisdom has (must
have) a practical function, not necessarily to explain, but to
help clarify and intelligently interpret our world and our place
How we grapple with notions of wisdom will continue to be an
elusive issue for us humans. But elusiveness need not be construed
as a negative. We have learned from thinkers like John Dewey that
our quests for epistemological certainty do not always garner
untainted rewards. Indeed, elusiveness itself may very well be
a necessary condition for wisdom's imaginative and hopeful potential,
the very thing that keeps us energized towards possible better
In this issue of Professing Education we invite our readership
to a thoughtful consideration of wisdom as they read through the
various contributions. Our first contribution by our Associate
Editor, Dirk Windhorst, tackles the notion of wisdom head-on.
In his recent trip to Yale University, he was able to interview
Dr. Linda Jarvin and Dr. Jill Citron-Pousty, two research associates
of Robert Sternberg, whose work at the Centre for Psychology of
Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE) has been instrumental
in the birth of new psychological theories about the developmental
role of wisdom in our lives. Next, George Demetrion offers a contribution
based on work from his new book, Conflicting Paradigms in
Adult Literacy Education: In Quest of a U.S. Democratic Politics
of Literacy. Exploring elements of John Dewey's theory of
inquiry, especially Dewey's notion of growth, Demetrion is able
to find enlivening connections to his own work in Adult Literacy.
Our final two contributors offer responses to last issue's Wisniewski
Lecture, "No Intro Course Left Behind?" written by Joseph
Newman. First, John Carter takes his many years of experience
as a teacher educator and offers suggestions for applying Newman's
strategies to Foundations of Education courses. In the process,
Carter proposes three novel components for augmenting Newman's
own suggestions and providing some potential closure to an overly
prolonged debate about Introduction to Education courses. In a
comparable vein, Steve Grineski draws on his own experiences teaching
Social Foundations of Education courses and extends Newman's ideas
and suggestions. In particular, Grineski pays close attention
to the socio-political contexts and the players therein, who quite
often are most responsible for shaping policy while failing in
terms of their connectedness to the day-to-day realities of the
world of K-12 schooling. We close out this issue with a book review
from our Co-Editor, John Novak. Here he reviews Peter Singer's
book, One World: The Ethics of Globalization (Second Edition).
It is our sincerest hope that you find this issue of Professing
Education provocative and engaging. We welcome comments and articles
that might wish to engage/challenge the kinds of issues that have
been highlighted herein.